Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Two things happened yesterday I wanted to put out there: 1) a friend in my dance class that I've attended for 8 years had gone missing for a couple of weeks; it turns out Lisa was in Japan; she is an author whose work on Japanese culture is well credited, particularly the giesha girl as her area of expertise. Last time she was gone it was to go to Hollywood to be the technical adviser for the Geisha film a couple of years ago. But this time she wasn't in Japan for that purpose. Far away from the US of A with the election happening, she and her party up and decided to take a trip Obama, Japan, a few hours away from their location. Who knew there was an Obama, Japan? But that morning, the morning after the election, her party went to the township arriving around noon only to find the whole town not on their jobs or visible. They were told the whole town was up celebrating throughout the night the win of Barrack Obama as President of the United States.

Then a very dear friend studies with Lazarus very seriously every year. She shared with me this content: Obama is the perfect leader for this time; his brings less fear and all the hope of the NEW NOW. This higher place we are all reaching for has brought Obama forth as the leader of the Western World. That's funny, he has always said 'it's about you, not about me."

Meanwhile I'm filling out the forms available at change.gov that allow any of us who want to engage to find a place where we can serve in this next Administration. I'm thinking here in oru communities, just like in the campaign. Kind of like millions of people are responsible for the election of Obama and the change underway; we might never know their names or them ours. But there is something we can all contribute. Step one - filling out the application, doubts and all, that that will result in finding that place, cog in the wheel dynamic. The hardest part!

Monday, November 17, 2008

A New Day-A New Time

Yesterday George and I went down to the flea market to hear the drums. We don't go very often, usually when we have friends from out of town who have brought us down the block to visit the market and enjoy the drums, but they can be heard from our house every Sunday late PM. On the way we met two neighbors who over the past ten years, a vague wave has been the agreed upon acknowledgement from them. But the invitation was there to speak, and visit about the project across the street and was a warm exchange. Then once we were there at the drum circle, two of the women there and a couple of the drummers made eye contact, head dipping slightly in greeting. What's so unusual about this you may well ask. Well, we have been here for ten years and this is the first time my black neighbors and the black musicians did more than than the vague wave no eye contact. And this is what I believe the election of Obama has done for us: there is the invitation to engage and a trust I haven't seen ever, an opening allowing expression beyond the limits we all agreed to. I saw that in working in the campaign office and wondered if it would prevail; it's like in that environment young old, rich poor, black, brown or white the walls were down and the commonality of our purpose and our enthusiasm prevailed. To see that out in the world we are all reaching out to have this whiff of possibility become reality is so gratifying, and makes more real the potential I experienced the night of Obama's election. No misunderstanding here, the work is all in front of us but we're ready for this NEW DAY-NEW TIME.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Oakland Convention Center Election Night

Today George and I had a very impressive experience. We went down to the Oakland Convention Center for the 36 hour Calling Party for Obama. The Convention is quite large, can hold thousands of people, and when we arrived at 10 AM we found tables set up and a very comfortable ambiance with people busily dialing up people on their cell phones. We had been to previous calling parties at the Berkeley Center, but this was IT. The election was happening as we were calling. We were calling first Missouri, then Indiana, North Carolina, Nevada being led by a staff that brought different groups to call around according to the different hour of the day given the polliing hours as people voted across the United States. The atmosphere was pretty relaxed and friendly with a substantial number of all ages, all races working together side by side. The calls were pretty straightforward and on the big screen in front of us with the sound off, what was happening across the country on MNBC. In Chicago, the big party gathering for Obama should he win, in Phoenix Mc Cain's party should he win. Right now as I write this, it's hard to concentrate because of all the horns and shouts and energetic whoopees all around town right now. But then things were a bit somber. When we called people, it wasn't a sales call in as much as we identified ourselves as calling from the Obama campaign and asked them to vote and sometimes they offered to say who they were voting for, but that wasn't required and mostly those who were voting for Obama brought up that's who they were voting for, and those who were not simply said they were voting or that they had voted without giving a candidate or being very chatty about it. We also gave Poll information, where they should go, encouraging them to vote, etc. The day went on with a rhythm of the district manager announcing now and then where we were and where we were going. The first polls closed at 3 and so we would begin to have some results then of the voting. There was only one other person that I knew from my dance group but it was a very friendly space so we all chatted as we worked together. The reports from the staff about how we were doing, the number of people we reached and so forth kept the flow moving. A group of black students from a near by high school came in and sat down to get trained to make calls and were enthusiastic about being there. When we left for some lunch at Le Cheval's right across the street, a group of young black students from another high school came marching up playing drums and shouting OOOBAM-AH. It brought tears to my eyes because I couldn't even begin to look at what their disappointment would look like if Obama were not elected. I felt a bit of panic about being in this large group of thousands if that kind of disappointment happened, or if there was some kind of weird breakdown and betrayal as in other elections.

When we came back from lunch at 3:15, the pace had picked up and on the big screen reports began to come in as we were making calls to Indiana and Pennsylvania. The results didn't look that good and the huge room got quiet and I felt a kind of dread that maybe all was for naught. See, the all was about breaking a barrier, breaking a limitation. Everybody knew this was about a black man getting to be President and in so doing, projecting a new image to the world of who and what America is. And how we look at the world and how we are seen by the world will most definitely be altered. So in the Oakland Convention Center as I looked around at the worried faces, as the results came in, and felt the dread of experiencing this potential loss, it was disturbing and then I discovered next to me Bart. One of those young men who knows everything a computer can give you information about, who good naturedly told me the states that were showing up as they did were expected. The tone and the tempo picked up again as we all continued our calls now changing to another time zone of calls. Things went along like that for awhile, and then since the sound had been off and we were all busy with our tasks, it was rather stunning to see the projections appear that had Obama projected as the leader in Pennsylvania, in Indiana, in North Carolina, then in Nevada. Cheers erupted and things sped up from there. Bart, the young man who knew everything who had been very seriously at work next to me suddenly said- it's over. Barrack has one. 538, a now famous poll site, had given evidence that all the rest was going to fall into place and that Barack Obama was at 242 in electoral votes, though the TV was only saying 207. Bart picked up his cell phone and shoulder bag and was on his way out the door.

Then the floor manager announced that there had been something like 1100 people who had worked that day at the Oakland Center and they had made 300,000 calls and had done great work and things were closing down as the door between where we were calling slid open to a party room, balloons, bar, food and party tables with decorations awaiting us. We all strolled over and stood in front of yet another even bigger TV and then it was announced that Barrack Obama was elected President. I saw faces fall and collapse, many faces full of tears and kind of in a devastated state at that news as it wasn't expected. I think we all thought there would be some drama, some trauma, a set back and what there was was an amazing victory. And what I could see on those faces was the removal of the crimp. The young and old black faces trained to think in terms of their race, accepting the limits even as they fought and lost around them, were laid bare by this removal of a reality, a perception that was removed in the election of this Black man as President.

I realize not eveyrone is a Democrat and not everyone is for Barack Obama, but what I was seeing in the faces and the laid open bare and vulnerable young and old African Americans was a sharp removal of something they have carried in one form or another since they had any kind of self concept of themselves, perception of what they are and who they are and what they see in each other that has had them be and feel separate. In that ballroom, those barriers were lifted and the expression was amazing and unique. Where do we go from here I wondered? Barbara Lee, a very brave congresswoman who has time and time again stood and held the line alone quite often spoke. She and the other black congressmen present all acknowledged the impact of this experience of having this major limitation of a group excluded from the office of the Presidency.

Hearing Obama's speech, I felt further that the crimp of self perception and social relevance provided by Obama's campaign and election is responsible for removing in not only the faces of the African Americans, but other minorities in the crowd as we all looked at each other pretty laid bare by this experience. I saw others like myself, who have allowed and accepted things as they are unchallenged, as if it has to be a particular way also laid bare by the potential of what his presidency represents. Will we like animals who have lived in a cage stay within the range of our comfort even as we mumble and grumble about how confining it is, or will we go out there where we don't know how it will be and do what we can to have it be the way we truly want it to be with our fellow human beings. Like Barack said: we can, we did and now every one needs to kept shuffling, keep the essence of the work that has been started out and known to people. There is every reason for optimism though no easy answers and no short term proposition. And, we are all in it together.